Han

Anna Faison

2010 First Prize

It is perhaps what my mother holds to her heart when she ends
a call from a different hemisphere, her eyes like marbles left

buried and unmapped in our backyard. She doesn’t know what
to say to me then, or to the round pears on her plate grown abroad

in some familiar soil. She is thinking of her tallest brother pulling
fat dragonflies from his fishing nets and stacking blankets

on the mother she last saw six years ago. On the phone, they speak
of Korea, cleaved through its middle with the thickest borders in the world.

How cranes, a national symbol of prosperity and luck, have begun to multiply
there, stretching their black-tipped wings at armistice. They court

and give birth across the invisible line that separates
The Land of the Morning Calm. And citizens on either side fold

a thousand paper cranes in some wish against han, that dull
lingering ache of the soul, passive resentment at fractured families,

a suffering with no English equivalent. Only those
owed political favors have once transcended North and South,

one son forty years lost finding what even the checked fibers
of our kitchen tablecloth dread: wrinkled hands, the peppered

black knot at the nape of her neck, small feathered words plucked
from the nests of our mouths: My mother, don’t you recognize me?

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